AAV Criticizes Proposed Union Workers Solution… McClintock: So-Called Favors Are Not Illegal… DTOP To Expand AutoExpress… Toledo Urged To Evaluate Resources… Serrano, NOAA Announce Vieques Clean-Up Projects… Rodriguez Confirmed, Ed Secretary-Designate Withdraws… TSA Deploying New Explosives Detection Technology

AAV Criticizes Proposed Solution For Union Workers

June 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Wednesday criticized Senate President Kenneth McClintock’s idea to identify up to $50 million to help negotiate union contracts for government employees.

McClintock suggested that the money could be obtained from allocation of funds or through a credit line which could be guarded by the Management & Budget Office to help finance 34 union contracts that need to be renewed or negotiated during the next fiscal year.

However, Acevedo Vila disapproved of McClintock’s idea. He said a credit line would be like repeating unhealthy financial practices from previous governments.

McClintock acknowledged that the funds wouldn’t be enough to grant the salary raise that the workers deserved, but they would at least acknowledged their right to a negotiation.

McClintock presented his proposal to John Sweeney, who is the union leader of the AFL-CIO, which groups several labor unions in Puerto Rico.

Upon his exit from the meeting with Acevedo Vila, Sweeney said he would discuss with other union leaders available options to assist Puerto Rican union members.

McClintock: So-Called Favors Are Not Illegal

June 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Senate President Kenneth McClintock on Tuesday said the political favors that former Education Secretary-designate Gloria Baquero has been talking about aren’t illegal.

After announcing her resignation to the post on Monday, Baquero claimed that she had been pressured into hiring and favoring certain people at the Education Department in exchange for her confirmation to the post.

McClintock defined ‘political favors’ as community problems that citizens communicate to their legislators, who then bring them to the attention of agency chiefs. He said they could also be interpreted as job recommendations.

However, McClintock made it clear that it wouldn’t be correct to exchange votes for something else.

"For a person who hasn’t necessarily being involved in cabinet, constitutional, and legislative affairs, a politician’s request may seem like a political favor," McClintock said.

Nevertheless, he said the so-called political favors are probable requests that are within the legal discretions of a cabinet member.

McClintock said that, contrary to what Sen. Jorge De Castro Font had claimed earlier, he doesn’t know senators who might have negotiated their.

De Castro Font said he knew that several government officials had been asked for political favors. However, he declined to mention names.

McClintock defined ‘political favors’ as community problems that citizens communicate to their legislators, who then bring them to the attention of agency chiefs.

DTOP To Expand Autoexpress Services

June 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gabriel Alcaraz, who is the designated secretary of the Department of Transportation & Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym), announced on Tuesday the expansion of AutoExpress services in highway tollbooths.

He said new designated lanes have been added to the Caguas Norte and Toa Baja tollbooth stations.

Alcaraz said there has been an increase in the use of this service, which consists of an electronic toll-payment system that allows motorists with transponders and money in their electronic accounts to zip through designated tollbooths without stopping.

Caguas Norte now has five AutoExpress lanes, and Toa Baja, three. Alcaraz also said additional lanes have opened in Salinas and Hatillo, and that Arecibo and Manati may be next in line.

Alcaraz said that in order to ensure the system's efficiency, the government will have to double the number of AutoExpress lanes.

He noted that there are more than 225,000 AutoExpress users across the island.

AutoExpress accounts for 30% of daily tollbooth transactions. Alcaraz also said a recent study has shown a 30-minute reduction in traffic time.

Toledo Urged To Evaluate Resources

June 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — San Juan Municipal Security Commissioner Col. Adalberto Mercado on Tuesday said that recommending the mobilization of the National Guard to aid in the fight against crime would be an acknowledgment of the lack of resources within the local police.

Mercado said Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo should evaluate whether police resources are enough to keep criminal activity under control.

On Monday, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of mobilizing the Puerto Rico National Guard to aid the local police in the fight against crime.

"If the Superintendent recommends the National Guard’s mobilization, he would be admitting that he doesn’t have the resources to keep crime under control," added Col. Mercado.

He also noted that recent statistics indicate that San Juan is the only one of the 13 police areas of the island that has been able to keep violent crime under control.

Mercado said the San Juan area has reported 30 fewer murder cases than in the same period last year, and that criminal activity hasn’t reached critical levels as seen in Carolina, Ponce, and Bayamon.

Last week, Toledo acknowledged that he was concerned with the possibility that criminal activity in San Juan might have moved to other areas of the island.

However, Mercado said that is something Toledo would need to investigate before reaching any conclusions.

Rep. Serrano, NOAA Announce Clean-Up Projects For Vieques

June 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005
Hindustan Times. All rights reserved. 

US Fed News

WASHINGTON, June 20 -- Rep. Jose E. Serrano, D-N.Y. (16th CD), issued the following press release:

Today, Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY) announced a new series of programs, to be administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in cooperation with the Departments of Interior and Defense, to clean up and restore the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Despite being populated, the island had been a Navy bombing zone for nearly four decades, and it has still not been cleaned up. Serrano had secured funding for NOAA in last year's Appropriations Omnibus bill for Vieques' clean-up. "I'm so proud to be able to announce these important measures that we're taking to finally get the ball rolling on cleaning up Vieques," said Serrano. "NOAA will be studying contamination, restoring coastal and marine habitats, studying underwater ordnance and debris, conducting education and outreach programs, and developing a GIS mapping project to assist with cleanup and restoration. These projects represent a significant step forward in the effort to clean up Vieques." Announced NOAA Vieques cleanup and restoration activities are: * Land and Fiddler Crab Sampling Study, to sample for the presence of contamination in land and fiddler crabs; * Marine Habitat Assessment, Restoration, and Protection, to assist with the assessment, restoration, and protection of Vieques' coastal and marine habitats; * Underwater Survey, to demonstrate the effectiveness of sonar and video mosaic in identifying ordnance and debris in the waters around Vieques; * Education and Outreach, to build upon the existing community education and outreach activities focused on the Vieques coastal and marine resources; and * Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping Project, to assist in the cleanup and restoration, and provide an education tool for the Vieques community. Congressman Serrano has been a tireless advocate for Vieques. He played a key role in ending the bombings there (and was arrested outside the White House protesting the Navy's continued use of the island) and is now a leader in the push for the island's environmental restoration. A one-pager describing NOAA activities in Vieques is available here:

http://www.house.gov/serrano/pdf/Vieques_for_Serrano_June_10_20051.pdf . To view the Congressional Research Service's report on environmental cleanup efforts in Culebra and Vieques requested by Congressman Serrano, please visit: http://www.house.gov/serrano/pdf/vieques-culebra.pdf .

Senate Confirms Rodriguez As Planning Board Chief

June 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Senate on Monday confirmed the appointment of Angel Rodriguez as chairman of the Planning Board of Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez was confirmed in a 14-9 vote with two abstentions from New Progressive Party (NPP) Sens. Hector Martinez and Luis Daniel Muñiz.

NPP Sens. Roberto Arango, Jose Garriga Pico, Jose Emilio Gonzalez, Margarita Nolasco, Carlos Pagan, Carmelo Rios, Pedro Rossello, and Lornna Soto, as well as Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Maria de Lourdes Santiago voted against Rodriguez.

This will be a new term for Rodriguez, who had been appointed chairman of the Puerto Rico Planning Board during former Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration.

Education Secretary-Designate Resigns

June 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Less than an hour before the Senate would vote on her nomination on Monday, Education Secretary-designate Gloria Baquero announced that she would step down from the post.

Baquero said she had decided that Monday would be her last day of work, regardless of what the Senate decision would be.

"I have been waiting six months for the Senate’s confirmation", said Baquero, who told reporters that the governor had already informed that she didn’t have the votes to be confirmed.

Baquero said she had made the decision to leave the post during the weekend.

"This is my last day at the agency. This struggle affects our children, teachers, and employees. This struggle leads to nowhere and it needs to end," Baquero said.

Adalexis Rios, who is the current deputy secretary of Academic Affairs, will take over her duties until June 30.

TSA To Deploy New Explosives Detection Technology In SJ

June 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has successfully completed the explosives detection trace portal program pilot phase for passenger screening. This new technology was tested in a pilot program in 14 cities and met TSA’s rigorous standards for excellence.

TSA is eager to expand this program as an important step towards increasing explosives detection capabilities at passenger screening checkpoints at national airports.

Starting in July, TSA will begin the first round of deployment by adding 44 additional machines and ten additional airports to the program.

By the end of September, TSA will complete the first wave of deployment of this new technology to airports in several cities, including San Juan.

TSA anticipates deploying 100 additional machines targeting the nation’s largest airports by January 2006.

At airports with the new technology, some passengers will be directed by TSA screeners to step into a portal at the checkpoint. Passengers will stand still for a few seconds while several "puffs" of air are released. The portal then collects and analyzes the air for traces of explosives and a computerized voice indicates when a passenger may exit.

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